UK: SA’s Christo Lamprecht claims the 128th Amateur Championship
Christo Lamprecht continued South Africa’s proud history in The Amateur Championship when he became the fourth winner – and third GolfRSA National Squad champion in the past six years – to lift one of the most prestigious trophies in the amateur game.
The World No 6 defeated Ronan Kleu from Switzerland 3 & 2 in a thrilling 36-hole final to win the 128th edition in front of large crowds in what was an exciting contest at Hillside Golf Club in England on 24 June.
Jovan Rebula became the first South African in more than half a century since Bobby Cole’s 1966 triumph at Carnoustie to lift The Amateur Championship title in 2018, defeating Irishman Robin Dawson 3 & 2 at Royal Aberdeen.
Last year, Aldrich Potgieter made it a trio of victories when he held off a charging Sam Barstow from England to win by the same margin at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Now, Lamprecht has done South Africa, and GolfRSA, proud again.
“I’m just over the moon,” said Lamprecht, whose affinity for links courses previously netted him victories in the 2017 South African Amateur at Humewood and the 2018 East of Ireland Amateur at County Louth Golf Club.
“I haven’t kind of won something big in a long time and it’s the one to win for sure. I’m ecstatic. It’s always nice to be part of history with South Africa and to enrich that history and I just love my country.
“I tried to stay in my zone the last couple of holes because Ronan was playing good and fighting back hard. It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it feels good. I guess South Africans like playing links golf. We kind of like being creative, so I guess that flowed over into this Championship. I cannot comprehend my feelings right now. I’m just over the moon.”
Exemptions to majors
With the biggest victory of his career, the towering 22-year-old earned exemptions to The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool next month, the 2024 US Open, and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament next year.
He also joined a Championship roll of honour which includes legends of the game such as Bobby Jones, José María Olazábal and Sergio Garcia.
“It’s tough to even think about the majors right now. My biggest goal this year was to try and qualify for a major before I turn pro to get that experience, and now I’m into three. It’s the biggest milestone I’ve achieved. I’m not going to lie, to get into three is pretty amazing.”
Starting his campaign in the international field of 288 players representing 38 countries, the Georgia Tech senior squeezed his way into the preliminary round for the top 64 with a birdie at his final hole. After narrowly edging Dutchman Jack Ingham 1-up, the prodigious ball striker was on his way in the match play stage.
Lamprecht excelled in the early rounds in the knockout format with wins against American George Duangmanee (3 & 2), Norwegian Mats Ege (3 & 2) and Adam Wallin from Sweden (2 & 1) to reach the quarterfinals.
However, after marching to a convincing 6 & 5 win over Richard Teder of Estonia, he was well and truly tested by English teenager Frank Kennedy. On the back foot for the better part of his semifinal clash, Lamprecht rallied to win the last three holes – helped by an eagle at the 17th hole – to win 1-up.
The South African faced Kleu in the 36-hole final. The joint runner-up in the stroke play qualifying was aiming to become the first Swiss winner of The Amateur.
In the morning, Lamprecht’s opening birdie gave him the early advantage but Kleu reeled in three birdies in a row from the sixth to go one up. With his precision iron play, the Swiss national team member also birdied the ninth to move two ahead after nine holes.
In the seesaw contest that followed, Lamprecht won the 10th and 11th holes to square match before he seized control. Aided by his long driving, the Louis Oosthuizen Junior Golf Academy graduate birdied five of the last seven holes – including four in a row from the 15th – but Kleu closed with two birdies of his own to stay in touch at only two down at the halfway stage.
Lamprecht, a first team All-American with eight top-10 finishes in the 2022-2023 season, was six-under-par for the morning session and had played 21 more match play holes than his opponent, but he showed no signs of letting up.
He won the 19th hole and stayed 3-up until the 24th, where the Swiss struck it close to reduce the deficit. A brilliant Lamprecht pitch from the dunes on the 27th restored his advantage and he made another decisive move at the short 28th, holing from 15 feet to go 4-up.
Kleu clawed back two holes with back-to-back birdies on the 30th and 31st and an incredible birdie at the 32nd after he sliced his drive into the rough gave the Swiss golfer a glimmer of hope, but the South African stayed cool under pressure and drained a six-footer for birdie to halve the hole.
Lamprecht was back to 3-up with his fifth birdie at the 33rd and he knocked in a short par putt at the 34th to seal the win.
“We went back-and-forth quite a bit for a long time and I kind of felt there in the second round, around 10 and 11, that I got myself into a position where I felt really comfortable,” the George golfer said. “He gave me a really good go at the end; he made a lot of birdies coming in. I just played really solid golf. I’m proud of that.
“It’s been a really special week, with all the squad guys out here supporting me and everything kind of going my way a little bit. There were so many highlights. I guess if I had to name one, it would be the eagle putt I made on 17 in the semifinal. That was enormous. I didn’t think I was going to win that match. It’s kind of a match where I felt I was in control the whole time except until 18. It really added to the win.”
Lamprecht was full of praise for his caddie, fellow GolfRSA National Squad player and International Arnold Palmer Cup teammate Christiaan Maas. The 2022 Brabazon Trophy champion was also on the bag for Potgieter when he won 12 months ago.
“The word caddie is insulting him a little bit, because Christiaan is an amazing golfer in his own right and he is going to do amazing things and probably going to win this championship, as well, in my opinion,” Lamprecht said.
“We kind of play golf very similarly and kind of approach the game the same way, and he has a bit of experience, so having him on there for an extra bit of advice was amazing.” DM